The decorative approach to home work

Editor’s Note: Welcome to CNN’s Open House, an interactive, online tour of iReporters’ houses that showcases incredible decor. Space by space, we’ll feature beautiful design moments and learn from decorators’ experience. Want to show off your decorating skills? Submit your photos to our iReport assignment! Our next edition is all about decorated bookcases.

Story highlights

Decorated home offices are designed to inspire, not distract

Paint colors and furniture styles can connect the home office to the house

For the next Open House iReport assignment, show us your bookcases!

CNN  — 

It’s fun to flip through decor magazines, ogling picture-perfect home offices, dreaming of just how productive one could be in a room like that. But making it happen, even for decorating and organizing enthusiasts, isn’t as easy as turning a page.

Take Holly Modica’s home offiice. One Saturday morning, as she walked in her neighborhood with a friend, she found an antique desk by the side of the road.

“I knew instantly where this desk was going and what that entailed,” she said of the furniture that she would not only refinish but use as the inspiration for the work she does on the desk, her blog, House by Holly.

It took her more than a year to put that plan into action. The desk stayed, untouched and collecting dust, in Modica’s garage. Instead of facilitating work, it facilitated fights with her husband. It took her months to prep the room that would be her office, because it started off as her children’s playroom; she had to organize and find new homes for piles of toys. Only then did she figure out how to refinish the desk and decide the stylistic theme of her eventual home office.

  • Don’t miss out on the conversation we’re having at CNN Living. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest stories and tell us what’s influencing your life.

    Let’s up the ante: What if the room you’ve designated as a home office is open to the rest of the house’s floor plan? That’s what Laurie Jones from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Emily Clark from Charlotte, North Carolina, had to deal with. Jones used an established decorating scheme to help connect her office to the rest of the house, “but really this is probably the most colorful space in my home,” she said.

    Clark’s home office was actually the formal dining room, and in order to transform the room, she and her husband chose custom-built bookcases that covered one wall.

    In this home office edition of CNN’s Open House, we look to the desks of homeowners who work long hours just down the hall from their bedroom or kitchen. Here are some of their decorating and project management tips to help inspire your own home office.

    Set the mood

    “Figure out what you need and want in the room before thinking about how the space will look. When you realize what you need to store, you have a jumping-off point for what you would like the space to have in it. Emphasize style and function to make your creative space pleasing to the eye and the heart.” – Tracie Stoll of Prospect, Kentucky

    “I love the flair of an antique desk – it adds character. I’m a big fan of detail, whether its nail-head trim, details in the wood furniture, hardware, a crystal chandelier or the grooves in frames. The details draw you in wanting to take another look.” – Holly Modica of Middletown, Connecticut

    “I’m amazed at how much happier I feel in my office since it has been painted and rearranged. Painting and moving the desk near the window, alone, was so much better for my mood. I even made a couple of places for my kids to sit in my office, so they could hang out with me if they wanted to be close by. They can quietly work or read and still be close to mom.” – Becky Barnfather of Burbank, California

    “I really use and work in this room, so it has to be comfortable and functional. There are good and bad sides to having a big work table instead of a smaller desk. I don’t feel cramped, but most days I find lots of random objects seem to land here (school papers, finger paintings, crayons, small toys, etc.) Our office is in the middle of our home, so keeping it ‘magazine-worthy’ on a daily basis isn’t happening around here – and that’s OK!” – Emily Clark of Charlotte, North Carolina

    Get inspired, not distracted

    “When you have light walls, all your accessories can be a part of the decor. Markers, pencils, fabric all pop off a white wall. It makes you feel like creating.” – Tracie Stoll

    “Storage was very important in the space. I don’t like clutter. I’m an interior decorator, so I have a lot of fabric, paint swatches and art supplies. I used wicker boxes, photo boxes, binders and clear acrylic containers in my desk. I also used a rolling file cabinet that I decorated by enlarging an image I found online and pasting it on the cabinet.” – Laurie Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana

    “Because I used a lot of what I had on hand, the room came together easily and has many memories. The chandelier was my mother’s from her early 20s, as well as most of the antique frames. The jewelry hanging on the dress form was given to me by my grandmother. All of this keeps me inspired, grounded and reminds me of the strong women in my life.” – Holly Modica

    “When you sit in the same place all day – usually just you, since you’re at home, it can lead to boredom and not being so productive. So, setting it up in a way that is pretty and has something interesting in it makes you want to be there and you’re more productive.” – Becky Barnfather

    Rolling with a decor theme

    “To unify my decorating I used the same trick I do in all my rooms: I used black. Black gives your eye a little rest and makes all the colors in the space not seem so bright and crazy.” – Laurie Jones

    “Painting the backs of the bookcases – especially a darker color – gives the room more depth. For me, it was also a way to incorporate a much bolder color in a fairly neutral room without it being too overwhelming. A contrast color also helps to better showcase what’s actually on your shelves.” – Emily Clark

    See what grows

    “I like the texture and life that plants bring to a room. The blue and white pattern is traditional, but the white owl planter adds a little bit of personality. The fact that plants put off oxygen is a plus. I do not have a ‘green thumb’ at all, so succulents are the easiest for me.” – Holly Modica

    “I think every room needs a plant or a piece of nature. It gives the room some life. That being said, I will confess that I’ve had both real and faux orchids on my desk. My thumb is not always the greenest when it comes to keeping orchids alive for the long haul.” – Emily Clark

    Are you inspired by this edition of Open House? The featured designers will take your questions in the comments below.